Gift of a Lifetime
Moermond ’56 wanted to make a difference.
Dr. Moermond, who died on Thursday, Oct. 17, 2002, after a battle
with cancer, was retired from a full career as a patent attorney
Dow Corning in Midland, Mich. He was equally highly regarded, however,
for his expertise in waterfowl and taxidermy.
Diagnosed in February, he had spent the past months considering
carefully how best to bequeath the museum-quality collection that
he had created. The answer: Hope College.
He donated 110 ducks and geese to the college, representing every
species of waterfowl in North America. The collection is an important
addition to the new science center, part of the Legacies: A
Vision of Hope campaign, one that will significantly enhance the college’s
"It’s one of the top collections, certainly,
in North America," said Dr. James Gentile, who is dean for
the natural sciences and the Kenneth G. Herrick Professor of Biology
at Hope. "This will really be a centerpiece for the building."
Every gift has a story. Behind each is an experience, or a connection,
or a memory, or a combination of the three.
Dr. Moermond had spent more than three decades perfecting his
craft and developing the collection from which his gift to Hope
is drawn. He had work displayed at the Smithsonian and at other
museums, and had worked with the state’s Department of Natural
Resources to help train agents involved in poaching enforcement.
He had traveled throughout the continent—Alaska,
Canada, Maine, Mexico, Texas, as well as Michigan and points between—to
acquire not only elusive species, but examples within species by
He reflected on the experience just a month before his death,
during a September visit to campus with his wife Jean that provided
a chance for him to see the collection’s new home taking
“Putting this collection together has certainly been a great
learning experience for me,” Dr. Moermond said.
"I think the collection is unique in that it not only includes
adult plumage birds, but also many birds in juvenile and eclipse
plumages," he said. "This
is something that I think is often overlooked in collections, but
is an important part of the educational nature and value of the
Early in his professional life, he was a high school teacher.
It was for a relatively brief three years––before he
took a job with the U.S. Patent Office in Washington, D.C., that
eventually led to his work
at Dow Corning––but hear its echo as he reflected on
his reason for supporting Hope:
"This is something that I’ve had in mind for a long
time, as to what happens with [the collection] ultimately," Dr.
Moermond said. "One long–term goal is to have them end
up in some place, some situation, where they would continue to
provide the public with education."
He had given away segments of his collection for years: some to
Hope previously, and to other schools, a local nature center, and
a museum in Homer, Alaska, among others––more than
150 pieces in all.
This time, though, he carefully selected a major portion of his
collection with an eye toward comprehensiveness––for
what it could teach as a whole. he found in Hope a way to assure
that others will enjoy and benefit from it for years to come.
Hope in particular made an appropriate destination on multiple
levels––even though Dr. Moermond’s coursework
at Hope was in chemistry, not biology. "Hope has always been
very close to all of us," Jean
Three of the couple’s four children are alumni: Linda Moermond ’80
DeGroff of Holland, Mich.; Deborah Moermond ’84 Petersen
of Princeton, N.J.; and Chaplain Timothy Moermond ’89 of
Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska. As it happens, Dr. Moermond’s
first gift of birds followed a visit to the department of biology
"And he saw some of what they had, for study skins and such,
and what specimens they had in the case, and he said, ’I’ve
got that. I’ve got some that look better than that,’" she
recalled. "We started looking around, and Eldon [Greij, of
the biology faculty] was there, and he started talking with him
and said, ’How would you like some more?’ And he said, ’I’ll
take what you can give me.’"
The new collection will play a central role in the college’s
biology program, according to Dr. Kathy Winnett–Murray, professor
For students of zoology, Dr. Winnett–Murray noted, there
is no substitute for having actual examples for study and comparison.
"We use them a lot in the zoology courses to show examples
of the different species, and also the plumage differences that
can exist," Dr.
Winnett–Murray said. "We also use them in outreach programs
The outreach reflects the central, historic identity of the college
as not only a place of learning for its students, but a resource
for the community. Last year, more than 1,800 area school children
toured the science museum in the Peale Science Center.
"They don’t have resources like that at all at their
own schools," Dr. Winnett–Murray said. "So kids
of all ages, from college right down to pre–school,
are going to see what wildlife looks like––and for
a lot of the younger kids, that’s their first encounter."
The number of visiting students has climbed steadily through the
years, according to Lori Hertel, director of biology laboratories
at Hope. "It’s
been growing a lot every year because of word–of–mouth
by the teachers," she said.
Demand has grown so much that the new science center will include
an enhanced museum for visitors, and Dr. Moermond’s collection
will be a major part of it.
In fact, without the new science center, Dr. Gentile noted, the
college wouldn’t have been able to appropriately apply such
a significant gift. Just as new Hope students have been drawn to
the college because of the imminent new facility, so has its promise
provided opportunities for the program––even as fund–raising
for and construction of the building continue.
Earlier this fall, Dr. Gentile and other college officials met
with the building’s architects to determine how best to configure
a prominent display area to feature the collection. The waterfowl
will be presented in two massive, glass–sided
cases on the third–floor landing in the building’s
main atrium, with the geese and other large birds visible from
both the landing and the main floor below.
Every gift has a story. When he learned that the collection was
going to Hope College, Dr. Moermond’s young grandson became
worried. Thinking of the happy times he had spent with his grandfather
in the bird room in Midland, he wondered: could he visit them at
The answer? Definitely.
That’s why they’ll be there. For everyone.
(This arcticle, written by Greg Olgers '87, was
first published in the October 2002 issue of news from Hope
about others who have generously shared
their resources with Hope College
more about the A. Paul Schaap Science Center